Defense Bill Will Not Require Women to Sign Up for Draft After All

A draft of the Defense Authorization Bill currently being considered by Congress has dropped a provision that would've required women to volunteer for the military draft. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley and some other congressional Republicans opposed the provision.

The $777.9 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 initially included a provision to "modernize the Selective Service System" by requiring women ages 18 to 25 to sign up for a draft.

The bill said it wanted to do this to "support the mobilization needs of the Department of Defense by including women if the all-volunteer model is no longer able to recruit enough people during a time of national crisis," according to a summary of the bill from the House Armed Service Committee.

Despite its initial inclusion, leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees removed the provision from the bill's final version, Politico reported. The provision was reportedly removed as a compromise to satisfy Senate Republicans who otherwise opposed the bill's reforms for the military judicial system's handling of sexual assault cases.

A compulsory military draft hasn't been instated in the U.S. since the 1964 to 1973 period of the 20-year Vietnam War. However, the U.S. maintains the system regardless.

defense authorization bill women military draft Hawley
A draft of the Defense Authorization Bill currently being considered by Congress would require women to sign up for the military draft, something opposed by Republican Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. In this photo illustration, a female soldier in uniform salutes with the U.S. flag behind her. Ildar Abulkhanov/Getty

On October 29, Hawley filed an amendment to block the proposal for including women in the draft.

"It is wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters to fight our wars," Hawley wrote in a November 1 statement. "[Women] have played a vital role in defending America at every point in our nation's history. But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be compelled to do so."

Five other Republican U.S. Senators—Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and Roger Marshall of Kansas—also signed onto Hawley's amendment.

However, other Republicans, like Florida Representative Michael Waltz and Iowa Representative Joni Ernst, supported including women in the draft.

Democratic Hawaii Representative Chrissy Houlahan said, "Simply put, as the Selective Service System is currently written it is unconstitutional and discriminates based on sex."

The White House also voiced support for the measure, saying that it "further ensures a military selective system that is fair and just."

In March 2020, an 11-member panel created by the House Armed Services Committee issued a report backing the inclusion of women in the draft.

"This is a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency," the report read.

An August poll by the global polling firm Ipsos showed that 45 percent of respondents supported drafting women. In 2016, 63 percent supported drafting women. Roughly 55 percent of men in the 2021 poll supported including women in the draft, and 36 percent of women supported their inclusion.

Past lawsuits have challenged the draft's current male-only system. In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging the current system which was brought by the National Coalition for Men.

Update 12/06/21, 6:50 p.m. ET: This article and headline have been updated to reflect that leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committee removed the provision from the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 that would require women to sign up for the draft.